What the crystal ball got right
As predicted, we have an 8-person san’yaku—the minimum size it’s been in the modern era, and the first time it’s this small since 2005. Asanoyama was promoted to East Sekiwake, his highest career rank. Abi remains stuck at East Komusubi for the 4th consecutive basho, and he is joined on the West side by Daieisho, who makes his san’yaku debut.
The forecast was also on target for the upper maegashira ranks down to M6e, getting only the East/West order wrong at M1, M4, and M5. Notably, Mitakeumi does indeed fall out of the san’yaku ranks after 17 consecutive basho, and does not get any leniency, ending up at M2w.
From there, the forecast goes off the rails (see next section) until we get to the bottom ranks. I went back and forth on this, and while my posted predictions got some things wrong here, my final GTB entry correctly had Shimanoumi as the lowest-ranked Makuuchi holdover at M14w, followed by the six Juryo promotions: Azumaryu, Ikioi, Tochiozan, Kaisei, Kiribayama, and Tokushoryu. The last of these went 8-7 at J1w, which proved a strong enough promotion claim to push Tomokaze down into the second division. The six promotions are the most we’ve seen since May 2016.
What the crystal ball got wrong
I wrote that the biggest uncertainty was how far 2-win Tochinoshin would fall from Sekiwake. The banzuke committee treated him far more favorably than the range of possibilities I had envisioned, with the former Ozeki ending up at M6w, making this my biggest miss, by three and a half ranks. This had a knock-on effect on my picks for the subsequent slots, so that the next rikishi to be placed correctly didn’t come until Kotoshogiku all the way down at M13e.
The other discrepancy between my predictions and the official rankings was the strong tendency by the banzuke committee to favor losing records over winning ones. The most extreme examples, and arguably the snubs of the banzuke, are Yutakayama and Terutsuyoshi, who stayed at M9w and M14e, respectively, despite posting 8-7 records. This is the first time I’ve seen rikishi with winning records not get a promotion outside san’yaku. Similarly, Ishiura, Chiyotairyu, and Chiyomaru got only minimal half-rank promotions for their 9-6 performances, and Takanosho and Kagayaki only moved up a couple of ranks following double-digit kachi-koshi. I guess that in these cases, the committee considered that in going from a san’yaku with 11 rikishi to one with 8, staying at the same rank means being three spots higher on the banzuke. But no similar consideration appears to have been applied to make-koshi rikishi such as Aoiyama, Ryuden, and Sadanoumi, with the committee assigning them typical numerical ranks given their Kyushu banzuke places and performances.
Bonus: Makushita Joi
I also took a shot at guessing who’d end up in the top 10 spots in Makushita, from which promotion to sekitori is possible without a 7-0 record. Who’ll be fighting it out for a ticket to Juryo? As expected, the top three Juryo dropouts made it: Kaisho, Wakamotoharu, and Akiseyama. Joining them in seeking immediate re-promotion is Ichiyamamoto, whom I had on the bubble (he got the last Ms5w slot). Also as predicted, moving up from lower down in Makushita are Midorifuji, Shiba, Oki, Chiyonoumi, and Naya. Hakuyozan, another bubble rikishi, also made it. That’s all ten spots spoken for, which brings me to one surprise: former Makuuchi man Chiyonokuni, who went 3-4 at Ms2w, is just below the “invisible line” at Ms6e. I thought he’d done just enough to have another shot at Juryo at Hatsu; technically, he still does, but he’ll have to be perfect to do it.
Overall, the crystal ball acquitted itself creditably, given the many unusual features of the banzuke and departures by the committee from customary practices. On to the basho!